Mr. Anthony (staging)

By Roger Boyle (December 1669; pub.1690)

A Lord Chamberlain’s list records a performance of this comedy in December 1669, but it was not printed until 1690. Aside from the gap between performance and publishing there are no compelling reasons to doubt that the text is related to LIF production. There is very little commentary on the play, old or modern. Pepys did not see it and the LIF prompter John Downes records that it took “but indifferent”.[1] The usually perceptive Hume is dismissive, but I think Summers is nearer the mark in describing it as an “extremely amusing piece”.[2] Reflecting the general tendency for comedies, especially those set in London, to make fewer scenic demands than other genres, Mr. Anthony calls for a maximum of five backscenes and three wing settings. While this play would be easy to stage, it has one very interesting stage direction that indicates a development in the use of the discovery scene. This occurs in 4.2 when the would-be swains Anthony and Cudden, aided by their seconds Art and Plot, arrive at the door to the chamber of Philadelphia and Isabella, the objects of the lovers’ suits. The text at this point reads:

Plot.
This is the door—I’le knock—

Exeunt.

He knocks. The Scene opens, Philadelphia and Isabella appear with their Hoods over their Faces.
Nan and Nell. Cudden runs to Philadelphia and Antony to Isabella, whom they lead by the Hand on the Stage.[3]

If we take this literally, the men exit, knock, and re-enter. Getting four men off and on stage in this manner is clumsy and uncharacteristic of Boyle, who by this time was more secure in his scenic dramaturgy. This is especially noticeable here where it appears the whole point of the stage direction is speed. The usually scrupulous W. S. Clark evades the problem in his edition by silently omitting the direction to exeunt. It is, however, present in the two British Library copies I have examined and also in the LION database.[4]

I believe Clark is right in effect if not in principle. It seems to me that the marked exeunt reflects the fictional impulse at this point. Fictionally the men would be outside the door, theatrically, however, I believe they remain onstage to expedite the transition. What we have here, I believe, is the first example so far of a discovery being used in a cinematic fashion to switch the action rapidly from one location to another. In this case, the discovered actors move swiftly downstage aided by their respective partners and the impetus of the discovery. This is not the only use of the scenic area in this play. Contrary to standard views of Restoration staging, Boyle directs his actors to remain upstage of the curtain line in three other significant episodes. In 3.1 six actors are instructed to hide in the scenic area to eavesdrop on a comic duel between Anthony and Cudden: “They all fix conceal themselves within the Scene”.[5] They remain there for the duration of the scene, a total of 200 lines (there is no marked exit for them, but it is logical that they witness the ‘duel’ and exit behind the wings when the duellists leave the field).

This eavesdropping scene is neatly reversed in 5.3 when this time it is Anthony and Cudden who listen while Philadelphia and Isabella are encouraged by their maids to mock their suitors. The two men then suddenly appear to confront the women. The first of the respective directions for these actions is implicit in the dialogue, while the second is explicit:

Ant.
‘Slid, they are on our backs already, we must Tappis instantly,
or they’ll have a view of us.

Cudd.
Let’s leap into our Forms; but little do they think how this Ambush
will break out upon them.
[…]

                            [They both discover themselves, and come upon the Stage.[6]

Cudden’s use of the word ‘forms’ is both fictionally and theatrically appropriate. Cudden is given to country and down-to-earth metaphors and his reference to a hare’s hiding place is characteristic. At the same time, ‘forms’ accurately reflects the paired rows of wings in the scenic area. The actors remain in their forms for 40 lines before surprising the women. Finally, in the street scene 5.1 it is clear from dialogue and stage directions that the three supposed musicians must enter through wing passages. This is fictionally coherent and is indicated theatrically by the direction, “a noise is made within; he looks within the Scene”, which precedes the entrance of the three men.

The scenery plot allocates a field setting to the duel scene 3.1. This is fictionally more appropriate for a duel than the garden suggested by Clark. Similarly, I prefer a street setting for 3.3 rather than Clark’s chamber. Possibly because this is a London comedy and therefore easy to fit up with stock scenery, Boyle supplies far fewer scene headings in this play than any other since Mustapha. We get only two: a chamber for 1.1 and a garden in 5.3. The chamber setting was probably used for every scene set in Sir Timothy’s house (Anthony’s father), although it is clear from the text that several different rooms in the house are being used fictionally. The exception is the young women’s chamber, which must be a relieve setting following the women’s discovery in 4.2 discussed above. The action in the garden – the ‘forms’ scene – does not seem to require a relieve setting, although this is what Boyle’s scene heading implies: “The SCENE, a Garden with an Arbour”.[7] As either a shutter or a relieve scene could be used here I have followed the implication in Boyle’s direction and allocated a relieve: there would be several such settings to choose from LIF’s stock and I suspect Boyle may have had a particular one in mind.

In terms of references to the use of forestage doors, the play follows the familiar oppositional pattern. Most striking is the following example:

Ex. Sir Timothy and Lady, at one door: Goody Winifred stops Pedagog.

Goo. Win.
Stay worthy Sir, you were not wont to go out at one door, when I come in at the other.[8]

[1] Roscius Anglicanus, p.28.
[2] See Hume, The Development of English Drama in the late 17th Century, Oxford: 1976p.258; Summers, Playhouse Of Pepys, p.242.
[3] London: James Knapton, 1690, p.25.
[4] BL call marks 79.k.6 and 644.g.21.
[5] London: Knapton, 1690, p.18.
[6] Ibid p.42, 43
[7] Ibid p.42.
[8] Ibid p.16.

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2 thoughts on “Mr. Anthony (staging)

  1. Pingback: Mr. Anthony (scenery) | Restoration Theatre

  2. Pingback: The English Princess (staging) | Restoration Theatre

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